The next decade for component manufacturing

The rapid advent of Industry 4.0 opens a range of opportunities for manufacturing companies in the B2B sector. That means innovation in processes and the efficiency and speed with which they carry out their business activities. Over the next ten years, component manufacturing is likely to see a raft of further developments.

3-D manufacturing and adaptive material technology

3-D printing has been around for three decades. But advances in its usage and applications have jumped forward in recent years. In its early days, only plastics could be used to produce components. Now, metal pieces, newly developed ‘adaptive’ materials, and even human tissue can be replicated. Prototyping is an area where its use is especially notable.

The product design process will be speeded up tremendously compared with former, manual processes. That permits companies to trial multiple iterations of product design at low cost and very rapidly. Any changes required can be made with a couple of clicks of a mouse, given the sophisticated software being developed. Moreover, it also means greater flexibility in production runs. As we move into an era of customisation in design and quantity, shorter product runs will be possible. That will make the cost-per-unit much more economical and the lead time much more agile.

A.I. and machine learning

Robots have been around for decades, functioning at a low ‘cognitive’ level for repetitive and high-risk tasks. Technological developments over the next ten years will undoubtedly see much higher adoption of highly sophisticated robots and ‘cobots’. The latter are machines that work alongside people to enhance manufacturing speed and quality. These robots will become more and more lightweight and flexible to use. They will also be continually learning from their manufacturing ‘history’, able to finesse their productive functionalities. That will make them capable of the most delicate of procedures and allow for fine-tuning of complex components.

Research is ongoing into a remarkable development which will inevitably appear in the near future. It enables robots to respond and adjust appropriately to random variables in manufacturing processes. These could include friction and certain physical properties of new materials emerging in component manufacturing.

Assistive technologies

These technologies are essentially the driving force behind developments in component manufacturing. Operatives can use augmented reality devices to test prototypes at various stages of production, from inception to execution. That also has significant benefits for training new staff, reducing the time needed to become fully trained and competent.

Component manufacturing is not a precise science, and the capacity to detect, isolate, classify and analyse ongoing production issues is critical. It increases the chances of finding timely solutions, minimising delays, enhancing operations and, of course, saving costs.

Predictive maintenance

Components producers are working to tight deadlines and supply chain demands. Their equipment needs to be functioning correctly at all times and, as they say, prevention is better than cure. That is where predictive maintenance technologies will be playing a pivotal role. The next decade will see much greater manufacturing efficiency in terms of time and cost. These technologies make use of performance metrics to monitor operational efficiency and warn of problems before they shut down production. Consequently, there should be far fewer delays in production due to equipment malfunctions.

Component manufacturing will continue to see tremendous changes over the next decade, all adding value to the production process.